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‘Tis the season to ground: mindfulness and self-care during pandemic

January 13, 2021

After the year we’ve had, the holidays just do NOT feel the same. Crowds of people that once lined the streets now flip open their laptops to virtually shop for gifts. It is the year of socially distanced and digitally composed Santa photos, and family gatherings & holiday celebrations have gone from grandma’s house to ZOOM.

By this time of the year, with the heaviness of the global pandemic and the lingering fog of uncertainty, we’re all pretty much running on strong coffee and fumes of hope. Millions of us are changing our traditions, travel plans, and trading the extensive parties for petite celebrations with those in our immediate bubble.

These circumstances can be isolating, bringing about feelings of disappointment, anxiety and depression, yet and still, you and your family deserve so many great things. You still deserve enjoyable, fulfilling days with each other; your children are worthy of spending quality time with you unbothered by what is going on outside. You deserve sunshine and smiles on your face. You are worthy of experiencing the joy that remains, even when it seems paradoxical against the background of collective grief and trauma.

During this season, it is imperative that we dig deep for our joy, protect our peace, and delight in our blessings. To be present this season, we must be intentional with our thoughts, in our everyday actions, where we focus our energy, and how we cope.
Following is our guide on how to stay grounded this holiday season.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS

You have tasted the soured tinge of loss this year—whether it was your job, a planned vacation, a sense of security, or in the most severe case, a loved one. Just as you have experienced the weight of this heavy time, everyone else around you has, too. We are all experiencing collective grief while also going through our own intimate battles AND victories.

Give yourself time to grieve what you are unable to experience, fully; then show yourself compassion and grace. Your feelings are valid—whatever they may be. Carve out space and time to be present in your emotions without guilt, shame, or a need for explanation.

You have made it through this wild year; it is completely normal for you to have some breakdowns and breakthroughs. By acknowledging your feelings, you become more aware and more conscious of who you are, how you are triggered and what you need. As you gift yourself time to mourn what did not come to fruition, you open up space for opportunities the upcoming year can and will offer you.

Words of wisdom 
If you have a child or partner at home, allow them space to explore their feelings, too. Normalize discussing emotions freely as this promotes self-awareness; the practice also encourages healthy communication and dialogue that will lay a foundation for your child’s future relationships.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Expressing gratitude does not instantly change the situation you are in, it does, however, change your perspective so that you can see your circumstances differently. It doesn’t negate the challenging parts of maneuvering through the holiday season during a global pandemic, but a thankful outlook makes the difficulties more palatable. Gratitude is an incredibly effective coping strategy that can be utilized during times of anxiety. Engaging in a consistent gratitude practice is a natural mood enhancer, which affects your immune system and your overall health.

As parents, our gratitude radiates throughout our household. During the holiday season, try a group gratitude practice: sitting down for dinner with your family, simply name something you are thankful for and then ask your child “what are you thankful for?” For younger children, you might ask them: “Are you thankful for ________?” Filling in the question with one of their favorite things or people.

Words of wisdom
I personally practice gratitude in the morning, before my feet hit the floor. Guided by my mother’s wisdom, spending five minutes first thing in the morning before rising out of my bed to give thanks makes an impact; it sets the backdrop for all of my other interactions to play against throughout the day.

*Try the 4-7-8 breathing method—counting to 4 on the inhale, retaining the breath for 7 seconds, and then exhaling to an 8 count. This is a simple, body grounding technique.

CONNECT TO SELF

It is paramount that you take care of yourself, first. As you strive to give others love and attention, remember that it only flows from you, if it flows through you. You must be intentional. As much as family and friends might want to access you via FaceTime chats, be sure to create boundaries that feel right for you and avoid triggers that cause any anxiety to be amplified. You are not obligated to be readily available to anyone around the clock. Unpopular opinion: not even your kids.

Yes, we want to do the very best for our children during this season. Yes, we desire that they have what they need and most of what they want. Yes, we want to be there for them all of the time. BUT, you need to take the time to care for yourself as well. That will look different for everyone; it might be a long hot shower, a few minutes of stillness to enjoy an uninterrupted coffee or a ride in the car listening to your favorite podcast. You may just need 10 minutes to breathe* and decompress without noise or you might need a one-day getaway. With so much concentrated energy in the home and not as many outings as usual during this holiday season, you must be intentional about creating space for yourself.

Words of wisdom
Build your community with healthy friendships and stay connected to those that value and encourage you. Build a rough schedule or a plan that is good for you; follow this blueprint to know when to call and reach out. This will decrease the time spent on your devices each day, allowing you to be more present in your home and with yourself. This also leaves more time for you to rest and relax while doing things that bring you joy and allow you to explore.  

GO OUTDOORS & EXPLORE

As we’ve had more time at home & indoors this year than any other, the rooms can get stuffy and families can start going stir crazy, wondering when things will be “back to normal”. Being inside for extended periods of time can cause anxiety and depression, feelings of isolation or loneliness.  

Whether you have to bundle up, pull on your boots and crunch around in the snow, or you’re sinking your feet into velvety soft sand on a beach — go outdoors and explore. Take your children with you, go hand in hand with just your partner or head out alone — go outdoors and explore. Whether you take 5 minutes on your patio or you go for a day-long hike — get outside & explore. 

Being outside has an instant grounding effect. In uncertain, ever-changing times, the ground serves as a reminder that we are still here, in this world, making strides.

Stepping outside awakens all of our senses. The sun shows us objects in their truest tone, illuminated in the perfect light. The breeze brushes our faces gently or a strong wind might whip our clothes against our bodies. The rain or snow might touch our skin. The smell of damp wood, pines, open fires, or salty sea is taken up with each breath. The sound of crunching leaves, ocean waves, or other families out to play echoes around us. Being outside has a way with us, allowing fresh air in for a clearer mind.

Words of Wisdom
Try a simple and fun grounding activity with your partner & children and notice how the connection to nature presents itself in the most wonderful of ways. Find the activity here.

 

As quick as you might be to place 2020 in the rearview mirror, remember that your presence is the catalyst to your joy, always. Striding into an unusual holiday season, observe a sense of groundedness and root deeper into yourself. Giving grace and remember that you are worthy of experiencing goodness and wholeness.

Kristen Hanna